Intelligent Design’s Secret Weapon: The World

By CSC Senior Fellow David Klinghoffer. Originally published at Evolution News & Views.

Along with the absurd stereotype that support for ID is limited to right-wing fundamentalist Christians — tell that to Stephen King, as I noted the other day — there’s also the Darwinist agitprop point that advocates of the theory are rare outside the United States. Hardly! An unacknowledged strength of the ID movement is its international character.

Stephen Meyer was asked recently in an interview with World magazine:

[I]s intelligent design gaining any acceptance at the university level?

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes movement, especially in Europe, oddly. I had an email several years ago from a European scientist who said, “Please don’t email me back — call me, but not at the office. Can we talk at my home?” I get a lot of phone calls like that. His problem was he’d come to accept intelligent design, but he was quite prominent in the European evolutionary establishment.

Asia is an up-and-coming ID hot spot, as ENV has reported. See here for Signature in the Cell and Explore Evolution in their recent and handsome Korean editions.

Europe and Asia aside, how about Brazil? From South America’s most populous nation, accounting for half the continent’s total population, comes news of the First Brazilian Intelligent Design Congress, scheduled for November 14-16 this year at the Royal Palm Plaza in Campinas, in the state of São Paulo.

The hub of ID activity in the country is Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), one of South America’s top three universities. (The equivalent of Yale, perhaps, if you go by the U.S. News rankings.) The group’s Scientific Committee is impressive, most members representing public universities; see here for a rough translation courtesy of Google. Our correspondent on the spot, Brazilian Intelligent Design Society vice president Enézio E. De Almeida Filho, explains:

The Brazilian Intelligent Design Group was founded in August 1998 at UNIMEP (Methodist University) in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil, by some graduate students after reading and discussing Behe’s ideas in his book Darwin’s Black Box. We were all excited by this knowledge, and in our innocence but true zeal for spreading ID in our country, we almost put everything in jeopardy. The wise words of Philip Johnson still rings in our ears: Be patient and wise, time will come when the truth will prevail! He was right!

Later on in the 2000s, after promoting ID throughout Brazil, giving talks and lectures in some public and private schools and universities, our group perceived that it was better to fly under the radar range so as to avoid being expelled by the scientific establishment as some were in the United States.

After ten years of underground activities, Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes, then Mackenzie Presbyterian University Chancellor, heard about our ID group, and helped some of us to come out of hiding and gave us a friendly platform to promote ID. From 2006-2012, the International Symposium on Darwinism Today was held at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, where [prominent ID advocates] Paul Nelson, Steve Meyer, Scott Minnich, Michael Behe, and Marcos Nogueira Eberlin (UNICAMP professor, member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, a signer of the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism list) lectured and debated with Darwinist scientists.

In 2014 we decided that it was time for ID to fly over the radar in Brazil, and we are going to have our first conference and launch of the Brazilian ID Society.

About the upcoming launch event, which sounds like a blast:

We will have lectures by scientists and experts in many scientific areas.

This will be a historic event for it will consolidate the grounds for Intelligent Design Theory as a scientific theory in Brazil, and for the first time it will gather many Intelligent Design proponents and advocates from all parts of our country.

The First Brazilian Intelligent Design Congress will begin on Friday, November 14 with the opening ceremony at 6:30 pm, opening lectures, and a gala dinner with live music.

On Saturday, November 15, we will have lectures and discussions, lunch at The Royal, and an afternoon break (close to 2.5 hours) for socializing in the hotel pool. At 4:30 pm the lectures will resume, and debates till 9:00 pm, and then another gala dinner (Pizza Night).

On Sunday, November 16, we will have more lectures in the morning, followed by a roundtable discussion, and a historic assembly with the launch of the Brazilian Intelligent Design Society, the elaboration of the first public Intelligent Design Theory-Brazil manifesto on teaching evolution and ID in our public schools and universities. We are against [teaching ID in schools], even though the law is on our side.

More details about the First Brazilian Intelligent Design Congress:

01. The First Brazilian Intelligent Design Congress aims to gather all the Brazilian ID scientific community, to get to know better the theory and its fundamentals, and to be organized for better promoting and defending IDT.

02. The Congress’s focus is the scientific community formed by undergraduate, graduate students, and post-doc professors and researchers from schools, colleges, universities, and research centers, as well as experts from all scientific areas.

03. The Congress’s main goal is the formation of a community of scientists and professionals to defend and spread the IDT in Brazil, through talks, lectures, articles, and mainstream media, so as to defend the IDT with the correct theoretic fundamentals, with true knowledge and full support from the Brazilian Intelligent Design Society (SBDI).

This is all excellent news. Rather than answer us on the merits of the scientific case that ID theorists make, Darwin defenders up to now have largely contented themselves with brandishing clichés derived from H.L. Mencken’s twisted reporting on the Scopes Trial and from watching Inherit the Wind. But the stereotypes are hard to maintain in countries where most people lack this cultural baggage and the social and class anxieties that go with it.

Hard, but of course not impossible.

Also in the News, the Brazilian Presidential Election

Further scrambling the usual stereotypes is Brazil’s presidential election this Sunday, where leading candidate Marina Silva, a leftist and environmentalist, has been faced with criticisms accusing her of ambivalent support for Darwinian evolution. The New York Times reported on this:

Others have assailed Ms. Silva as a creationist, revealing the tensions over the influence of evangelical politicians and prompting rebukes by Ms. Silva.

“I am not a creationist,” Ms. Silva has told a panel of Brazilian journalists. “But I don’t need to scientifically justify my faith. I believe that God created all things, including the great contribution given by Darwin.”

A Brazilian friend, who regards Silva as a bit of a mystery, comments:

Politically she is left wing, and the party [under whose banner] she is running for the presidency has a very, very strong Communist background. Last election she declared to a gathering of Seventh Day Adventists that she was a creationist, and later she had to recant because mainstream media came after her — how can you become president holding such weird beliefs? She said that her answer had been distorted and that she believed in God, but believed in Darwin, too. Since then she’s been denying she is a creationist.

Gee, that sounds kind of familiar. So Brazil has its Darwin enforcers as well, is all I’m able to clearly discern from it. Well, our friends on the other side of the equator will have their work cut out for them, I suppose. We wish them much success.

Lethal Ageism

By Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith. Originally published at First Things.

A story out of Belgium vividly illustrates how our elderly are becoming personae non gratae in a society increasingly obsessed with avoiding difficulty. Francis and Anne are healthy and happily married octogenarians. Not wanting to live without each other, they plan to die together on their sixty-fourth anniversary. Rather than engaging suicide prevention, their children procured a doctor to euthanize them.

Digging more deeply into the Daily Mail story, we can glean that there’s more to this case than the couple’s fear of widowhood:

<blockquote<John Paul said the double euthanasia of his parents was the ‘best solution’. ‘If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,’ he said. ‘It would be impossible for us to come here every day, take care of our father or our mother.’

Imagine knowing your children want you dead to put them out of their misery—because that is essentially what John Paul is saying.

Francis and Ann won’t be the first joint geriatric euthanasia killings in Belgium. There have also been joint deaths at Switzerland’s notorious suicide clinics. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, doctors now euthanize elderly people who are “tired of life.”

It isn’t just the metastasizing death cultures of Western Europe that pose a lethal threat to the elderly. Here, the assisted suicide proselytizing organization Compassion and Choices teaches elderly people how to kill themselves through self-starvation, known as “voluntary stop eating and drinking” (VSED) in euthanasia advocacy parlance. There is even advocacy in bioethics that would force nursing homes to withhold spoon feeding from Alzheimer’s patients who left written instructions to be so killed—even if they willingly eat.

Lethal ageism could easily insinuate itself into coercive public policy as a means of saving resources. That is why I was so disturbed when Ezekiel Emanuel, one of country’s most influential bioethicists and a prime architect of Obamacare, declared that he wants to die at seventy-five and will refuse all life-extending medical interventions at that age—even simple disease preventatives such as flu shots.

Why did the fifty-seven-year-old draw the line at seventy-five? At that age, our usefulness has peaked, and life is as good as over:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

Emanuel’s ageist attitudes are shared by many within the medical community and political leadership. Remember when President Obama argued that an elderly woman should have received pain pills instead of a pacemaker?

Writing in the Hastings Center Report in 1997, bioethicist John Hardwig was even more explicitly lethal in his ageism, actually advocating that our venerable ones have a “duty to die” when they become dependent.

A duty to die is more likely when continuing to live will impose significant burdens—emotional burdens, extensive caregiving, destruction of life plans, and yes, financial hardship—on your family and loved ones. This is the fundamental insight underlying a duty to die.

A duty to die becomes greater as you grow older. . . . To have reached the age of say, seventy-five or eighty without being ready to die is itself a moral failing, the sign of a life out of touch with life’s basic realities.

The antidote for lethal ageism is to assure our elderly at every opportunity that caring for them is an honor not a burden—a great gift not just a moral duty. Sure, it can be tiring, but so what? We’ve all known people who cared for their elderly parents because it was the right thing to do, only to discover later that they were the prime beneficiaries. And we’ve known some who didn’t step up to the plate and later regretted their failure bitterly.